Only a short walk to work awaits Belmont neighbor Chad Hutcheson after the purchase of Emporium On Main and the conversion to The String Bean Fresh Market and Deli.

Hutcheson and his wife, Katy, recently purchased and renovated the Younts home on Main Street, and not only fell in love with Belmont as residents, put their entrpreneurial spirit to work right away with this project.

More and more, the newcomers to Belmont are making immediate impacts to the community life and structure. Something we here on the Front Porch are very happy to endorse.

We continue to welcome people who will embrace the lifestyle that we have all come to adore, both a small town and accessibility to large town amenities. Chad and Katy will do well in this endeavor as have the LaVecchia family investments.

We remember the contentious debates from ’92-’96 over the costs of renovating the downtown area. The Belmont Chamber was at the time nothing more than a weak downtown merchants association. The vision of the property owners, the city bureaucracy of the day, and business tenants would not come together. Simple issues (in the view of many townfolk) such as a consolidated “look” couldn’t be agreed upon. What was agreed on however, was a public investment by the city to improve the streetscape, and THEN the property owners would renovate their facades.

A downtown development group was financed by RL Stowe Mills to assist property owners to locate, recruit, and place businesses into the vacant and struggling buildings. Remember, this is also when Belk still had a major presence, Wachovia owned their building and weren’t allowing tenants to renovate, and everything south of the tracks were quickly becoming eyesores.

After the streetscape renovations, the loss of a visionary mayor through an underhanded campaign, things stagnated by a reactionary council and leadership. The private investors continued to move along their path. A path which has brough about many changes that we are viewing today.

Good for the chamber and it’s growth, good for the downtown with a vibrant activity – we hate that parking is at a premium, but hey, walking works for most of us. Congratulations to the Hutchesons, to the Flemings, to the LaVecchias, to the Hills, and to the citizens of Belmont for patience and support of a long-term plan.

As the Gazette photo displays below, a toast for everyone is in order: